‘Harry, you’re a bit too cruel, as Julia would say.’
‘Have you noticed she gets more and more Irish?’
’Perhaps she finds it is liked. Some women can adapt themselves . . . they ’re the happiest. All I meant to ask you is, whether your princess is like the rest of us?’
‘Not at all,’ said I, unconscious of hurting.
’Never mind. Don’t be hard on Julia. She has the making of a good woman—a girl can see that; only she can’t bear loneliness, and doesn’t understand yet what it is to be loved by a true gentleman. Persons of that class can’t learn it all at once.’
I was pained to see her in tears. Her figure was straight, and she spoke without a quaver of her voice.
‘Heriot’s an excellent fellow,’ I remarked.
‘He is. I can’t think ill of my friends,’ said she.
‘Dear girl, is it these two who make you unhappy?’
‘No; but dear old grandada! . . .’
The course of her mind was obvious. I would rather have had her less abrupt and more personal in revealing it. I stammered something.
‘Heriot does not know you as I do,’ she said, strangling a whimper. ’I was sure it was serious, though one’s accustomed to associate princesses with young men’s dreams. I fear, Harry, it will half break our dear old grandada’s heart. He is rough, and you have often been against him, for one unfortunate reason. If you knew him as I do you would pity him sincerely. He hardly grumbled at all at your terribly long absence. Poor old man! he hopes on.’
‘He’s incurably unjust to my father.’
‘Your father has been with you all the time, Harry? I guessed it.’
’It generally bodes no good to the Grange.
Do pardon me for saying that.
I know nothing of him; I know only that the squire is generous, and that
I stand for with all my might. Forgive me for what I said.’
’Forgive you—with all my heart. I like you all the better. You ’re a brave partisan. I don’t expect women to be philosophers.’
‘Well, Harry, I would take your side as firmly as anybody’s.’
‘Do, then; tell the squire how I am situated.’
‘Ah!’ she half sighed, ‘I knew this was coming.’
’How could it other than come? You can do what you like with the squire. I’m dependent on him, and I am betrothed to the Princess Ottilia. God knows how much she has to trample down on her part. She casts off—to speak plainly, she puts herself out of the line of succession, and for whom? for me. In her father’s lifetime she will hardly yield me her hand; but I must immediately be in a position to offer mine. She may: who can tell? she is above all women in power and firmness. You talk of generosity; could there be a higher example of it?’
‘I daresay; I know nothing of princesses,’ Janet murmured. ’I don’t quite comprehend what she has done. The point is, what am I to do?’